My child attends a madrasah wherein it stipulates, as part of regulations, “Hair styles should not be adopted in an unsuitable manner i.e. short back and sides”.
On questioning the madrasah principle stated that this was in reference to the imitation of non-believers. Can you please clarify with appropriate text, if this regulation is substantiated within the law or whether this is a form of extreme interpretation of the law or otherwise.
Firstly, adopting any hair style that entails shaving some part of the head and leaving the other unshaved is impermissible or at the least disliked and explicitly prohibited by the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace).
Nafi’ reports that he heard Sayyiduna Abd Allah ibn Umar (Allah be pleased with him) say: “I heard the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) forbidding the practice of Qaz’a.” Ubaid Allah said: “I asked what Qaz’a was? So he said: “When the head of a child is shaved and hair is left here and there, and Ubaid Allah pointed towards his forelock and the sides of his head. (Sahih al-Bukhari, No. 5576)
Sayyiduna Abd Allah ibn Umar (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that “the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) forbade the practice of Qaz’a.” Ubaid Allah said: “I asked Nafi’, what is Qaz’a? So he said: “To shave part of a child’s head and leave the other.” (Sahih Muslim, No. 2120)
Abd Allah ibn Umar (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that “The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) saw a child, part of whose head was shaved and the other unshaven. The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) forbade them (the Companions) from doing this and said: “Either shave it completely or leave it completely.” (Sunan Abu Dawud, no. 4192)
Imam al-Nawawi (Allah have mercy on him) states in his commentary of Sahih Muslim:
“Qaz’a means to shave some part of the head and leave the other. Others have said, to shave different parts from the head, although the first opinion is correct….The scholars (ulama) have unanimously agreed that it is disliked to shave parts of the head except if it is for a medical reason, and this is somewhat disliked (karaha tanzihiyya)….The scholars have said: The wisdom behind it being disliked is because it is distorting the fair nature on which one is created. Others said that this is the appearance of Shaytan, and it was said that, this is the fashion of the Jews.” (Sharh Muslim li al-Nawawi. Also see: Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari, 10/448)
The great Hanafi jurist (faqih), Allama Ibn Abidin (Allah have mercy on him) states quoting from al-Tahtawi:
“The practice of Qaz’a is disliked (makruh), and that is to shave part of the head and leave the other to the amount of three fingers.” (Radd al-Muhtar ala al-Durr al-Mukhtar, 6/407)
Due to the above narrations and statements of the Fuqaha, scholars mention that it is disliked to shave some part of the head and leave the other unshaved. This, according to Imam Nawawi, is somewhat disliked (makruh tanzihan). However, if the aspect of imitating the non-believers is taken into consideration, then it will be unlawful.
Therefore, adopting hair styles that entail shaving part of the head and leaving the rest, such as the Mohican hair cut, flattops, fades, etc is disliked — or even impermissible, if practiced due to imitating the non-believers. Imitation of the non-believers is effected in one of two ways.
a) One does something with a clear intention of imitating the non-believers, meaning one does so because one wants to be like a particular non-believer or non-believers. In other words, one feels the way of the non-Muslim is superior than one’s own faith and desires to be like him.
b) Doing something that is unique and exclusive to the non-believers or is part of their faith. This will also be considered imitation, thus Haram (unlawful). (Taqrir Tirmidhi by Shaykh Mufti Taqi Usmani)
Many contemporary scholars (especially in the Indo/Pak) have prohibited such hair cuts given that they result in unlawful imitation. Others, however, are somewhat lenient with the issue.
If one was to really look at the various hair cuts prevalent today, it would be evident that the styles normally appear and come into the market due to some celebrity, icon, pop star, actor, sports player adopting that hair style. Many a time, you will go to the barbers and he will show you the various styles in fashion as adopted by the various celebrities. He will also have pictures of them having their hair cut according to that style. At times, a particular (so called) star will cut his hair in a particular fashion and the whole world wants to have the same type of hair cut.
This shows that the different hair styles prevalent are generally adopted with the intention of imitating somene and wanting to be like him. As such, it would be impermissible to adopt them. However, if one does not intend to imitate them and the style is not unique with them, then it will not be totally unlawful, although disliked.
As far as the other hair styles, where some hair is cut short and the other remains long, is concerned, many contemporary scholars have included them also in the above category in that it will not be permissible. This, however, will be based (merely) on the prohibition of imitating the Kuffar, and not the prohibition of Qaz’a mentioned in the Hadith, for that exclusively relates to the situation where some part of the head is shaved and the other left unshaven.
Styles such as short back & sides, step (without shaving part of the head), curtains, etc will be impermissible if practiced with the intention of imitating the Kuffar (which is generally the case).
In conclusion, contemporary scholars hold two kinds of positions in this issue. Some are stricter, in that they prohibit such hair cuts given the aspect of imitating the Kuffar. Others are lenient in the matter given that these hair cuts have become widespread and are not unique characteristics of the Kuffar, although hair cuts that entail shaving some part of the head and leaving the other unshaved will be disliked, for that is clearly mentioned in the Hadith.
As for the Islamic school you have mentioned, it must be remarked that, a school has a right to have such regulations as part of their policy. As mentioned above, there are many contemporary scholars who have adopted the stricter position, thus the Islamic school (madrasa) are fully entitled to adopt this position. So much so, if a particular school forbids something which is completely lawful in Shariah or enforces a non-obligatory act due to strategic reasons, then it has the full right to do so. We see many state schools enforcing certain school uniforms and prohibiting many things, but there is no complain. However, if the same is implemented in an Islamic school (madrasa), then people begin to complain.
Therefore, in one enrols his child in a particular school, then he must adhere to all their conditions and regulations. These regulations may be somewhat a result of a strict interpretation of Islamic law, but must be obeyed nevertheless. If one feels that a particular school has a very strict ruling that is contrary to Islamic law, then he may move his son/daughter to another school.
And Allah knows best
[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam
Leicester , UK